ST. LOUIS — Pisa Tinoisamoa tried playing with a broken left hand and dislocated left elbow last year, doing whatever he could to help the St. Louis Rams.
This year, the outside linebacker has the luxury of waiting until an ankle injury that sidelined him last week has a chance to heal. He vows not to take shortcuts to get back in the lineup this week at Tampa Bay and has received only limited work this week in practice.
Coach Scott Linehan said Tinoisamoa’s status, whether he starts or even plays, likely would be a game-day decision.
“I’m trying to be smart about it this year, as opposed to last year,” Tinoisamoa said. “I was just like ‘Oh, I’ve got to go, I’ve got to go,’ and I never really got healthy, and then it started going downhill. I just kept compounding those injuries.”
Tinoisamoa knows it’s better to be prudent. Predictably, he wasn’t effective playing with one arm in 2006 before finishing the season on injured reserve.
“If it was up to me, and they know that, I’d play regardless of if I was 60 or 70 percent,” Tinoisamoa said. “But they also know I play best when I’m at 100 percent, and they didn’t get very much production out of me playing with one arm.”
The Rams also have a nice alternative in Chris Draft, an offseason free agent pickup who started last week in place of Tinoisamoa on the outside. Draft has several years of starting experience and Linehan said Draft was “solid like always” against the 49ers.
“I don’t know that Draft will ever come out of a game not playing winning football,” Linehan said. “He played winning football for us and had a big hit on special teams.”
St. Louis was much improved last week on defense, holding the 49ers to 186 total yards in a 17-16 loss.
“They did better without me than with me,” Tinoisamoa said. “So I’m not worried. We’re definitely secure at the position, and that allows me to go ahead and make sure I don’t make any harsh decisions.”
Healthy, Tinoisamoa is a force. A second-round pick out of Hawaii in 2003, nicknamed Hawaii 5-0 for the old TV crime drama combined with his uniform number, he led the team in tackles his first three seasons.
A broken right hand against the Bears last December landed Tinoisamoa on injured reserve for the last three games. He ended with 47 total tackles in 11 games after hitting triple digits each of his first three years.
Linehan said Tinoisamoa looked better Thursday than the previous day.
“The reps right now for me are limited, but I’m surprised how well I feel,” Tinoisamoa said. “After yesterday I was pretty sore and today I actually felt better. Each day I push it more and more, hopefully to build up to game time, and we can make a decision.”